Planning a party for the Bay Bridge’s new span opening on Labor Day? You may want to hold off on buying chips and salsa.

A view of the underside of the eastern side of the new Bay Bridge on March 27. Bolts can be seen in a rectangular formation in the center of the photo. Thirty-two steel rods on the new eastern span have snapped. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
A view of the underside of the eastern side of the new Bay Bridge on March 27. Bolts can be seen in a rectangular formation in the center of the photo. Thirty-two steel rods on the new eastern span have snapped. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

State transportation officials say it will be early July before they know whether the new eastern span on the Bay Bridge will open that weekend as planned.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty told Bay Area Toll Authority commissioners Wednesday the agency is checking all the steel parts on the bridge similar to rods that snapped in March. “All the other bolts on the bridge are performing, they are tensioned up to their required tension,” he said. “But that’s not enough to convince us they can remain in service.”

To confirm the soundness of other rods and bolts, engineers have designed a special test chamber, said Dougherty. “It involves a salt water bath to, again simulate that long term corrosive environment, to see how the metal reacts to that to see if we have any susceptibility concerns for the long term.”

Numerous questions have been raised about Caltrans practices during construction of the new span. Some commissioners said the agency needs to restore public confidence in the structure.

Dougherty says the agency will complete testing in about a month.

In the meantime, the fix for the seismic safety devices compromised by the broken rods is being made here in the Bay Area so that agency engineers can oversee the process in person.

But Caltrans itself is coming under new scrutiny. On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown ordered an outside review of the agency by a University of Wisconsin transportation policy group, the State Smart Transportation Initiative, to do an independent assessment of Caltrans.

Officials say the $270,000 investigation is part of a reorganization of transportation departments already under way.

State Senator Mark De Saulnier told KQED’s Tara Siler the agency needs to be more open about its problems. “Californians are smart people,” he said. “They accept the fact that human nature is what it is and mistakes are made. But Ive always Californians not to be very forgiving when public officals or agencies hide the truth from them.”

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor